Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: The Perfectionists' Cafe, Heathrow Terminal 2

30 Jun 2015 by Tom Otley
Perfectionist Exterior

BACKGROUND

Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionists’ Café opened over a year ago at London Heathrow Terminal 2.

Located just after, and on the same level as, security, its name comes from Blumenthal’s 2006 TV programme In Search of Perfection, in which he explored and reinvented some Britain’s favourite dishes.

The menu is the work of Blumenthal, but also Fat Duck group executive head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and the restaurant’s head chef Julian O’Neill.

THE RESTAURANT

The café is almost the first thing you see after leaving security, off to the right-hand side with the shopping area and main area of the terminal on the level below.

The restaurant looks down onto this and has views both down to the shops. In daylight, it benefits from the terminal’s glass roof and is a pleasant place to sit without being too close to the shoppers and the crowds of passengers moving from security to the departure gates.

The branding of the café, including the name and logo, has come from Richard Seymour of Seymourpowell, and above the name is the logo A Clockwork Knife. This is intended as a metaphor for all the activity that occurs behind the scenes at a restaurant, but actually is a working version of the logo created by sculptor Rob Higgs.

You can watch a video of it here:

The whole thing is a reference to the “Professor Branestawm” children’s books of English author Norman Hunter, a peculiar, absent-minded inventor “who personifies British eccentricity”.

The design by Afroditi Krassa “harks back to the heyday and glamour of 1960s passenger flights, using unexpected details such as a propeller-shaped benches and Formica-lined joinery”.

This is true, but it also has nice touches such as charging pads in the middle of that propeller-shaped table, with the centre having standard power points.

In total, the restaurant seats 155 people, although it seems smaller than this.

On my arrival, there was a short queue waiting to be seated and I saw a couple of people slightly put off by this, reasoning the delay would then mean slow service. I found that wasn’t the case.

Once I’d been seated the service was very quick, as was the food, although I’m sure I could have slowed things down by request.

Perfectionist Cafe-closeup

THE FOOD

Within a minute or two of sitting down I was asked if I wanted to order a drink, and when I said I did and also wanted to order my food, service was quick thereafter, important if you have to make a flight.

In fact, I had plenty of time, and the menu is extensive with a lot of reading. For instance, the fish and chips “uses day-boat caught, sustainable varieties of fish from the coasts of Cornwall with beer batter aerated through a siphon to create the lightest, crunchiest texture possible… served with an atomizer of malt vinegar pickled onion juice – bottled at source” which you are invited to “spray” onto the chips.

The café has the only wood-burning pizza oven at Heathrow and serves Neapolitan-style pizzas. I went for an Alici pizza (tomato, olive, anchovy, oregano and garlic) for £11.75 (extra toppings cost 85p), and a bottle of sparkling water (a 330ml bottle costs £2.15, while 750ml costs £3.50).

Other main courses were slow spit-roast chicken with fries, salad, bread sauce and roasting juices for £16; or a deli choice of Hansen & Lydersen smoked salmon served with rye bread, cream cheese, onion, lemon and capers for £13.

Nitro Ice Cream Parlour Sign 2 (photo credit David Griffen Photography)

The pizza was excellent, and not too large. So, for dessert I tried one of the “nitro ice creams” which are “frozen using liquid nitrogen at -196C”.

There was yet more about why this was, if not necessary, at least preferable to more normal ways of freezing ice cream: “With a sub-zero temperature of -196C, the nitrogen freezes the custard so quickly that the ice crystals that form are minuscule, producing not only the fastest, but the smoothest of ice creams.”

I chose two scoops, vanilla and hazelnut, from the selection for £4.95. It was delicious, and while I ate I checked out the two steel cylinders that hold liquid nitrogen behind the bar, with tubes pumping it to the ice-cream maker.

There was a wide range of wines available by the glass (125ml or 175ml) as well as by the carafe and the bottle. Top price for a red was £80 for a Meursault (Clos du Cromins Olivier Leflaive, Burgundy 2011), although bottles started at £28 for a Carmenere. A bottle of Bollinger was £120.

The restaurant also has a wide choice of cocktails, including ones with a scented vapour, some of which when served at your table by the friendly staff are also embellished with dry ice.

Judging by most of the people around me, the lunchtime crowd on a weekday is a mix of older people going on holiday and business travellers. Of course, this will change according to the day, time of day, and the flight departures scheduled.

VERDICT

If you don’t have lounge access and want to eat a good, filling meal before your flight, this is the place. It serves quality food, has friendly staff and is reasonably priced.

FACT FILE

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